THE BLOG
04/28/2013 08:06 am ET | Updated Jun 28, 2013

Is Your Retirement Ransomed For A Few Trinkets?

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I opened my credit card bill today. Yikes! It's almost $10,000. I'm stunned. How did I let it get so out of hand? I should know better. I'm in the banking biz. I've advised people about managing their money for years. Nevertheless, I'm shocked when I see this balance on my bill. Plus, I'm mortified to say, nothing I charged was really important -- mostly trinkets and fun.

And, it gets worse. I see on my statement that it will take me 23 years to pay $10,000 off, if I make the minimum payments. Let me think... 23 years, I'll be... well, I'll probably be dead! If I'm not, I'll have paid over $20,000 including interest. That's ridiculous! Is that who I want to be? Do I want my retirement ransomed for $10,000?

Ransomed? Well, the retirement I've dreamed about is around the corner. I've been working my ass off for years and I don't want anything to get in the way of my just rewards. Because I'm older, I know that financial errors can have a greater impact. For example, medical expenses can derail my plans. My earning potential may lessen. Soon my income will be fixed. Why ransom those days on the beach I've earned on credit card debt?

Come on, we're all smarter than that. It's the best thing about being a grown-up. We've been around. So we know better than running up a bunch of debt in our later years.
Hence, I'm paying it off! Starting right now! If you're in this boat -- join me. Nobody is going to do it but you.

Here are 6 tips to get you out of credit card debt for good:

1. Face your fear: Debt is not funny. And people facing it avoid it because they're overwhelmed. Many don't even look at their statements when they come in. But one simple thing like looking at your statement and adding up how much you owe helps you feel back in control.

2. Stop using your credit cards: My first card was for emergencies. But, using them to purchase things we want is what runs up the balances. If you need a card for convenience, get a debit card.

3.Make sure your statement is correct: The statement will show the minimum due, your interest rate, your due date, any fees charged and how long it will take you to pay if off. I found two errors recently -- a renewal charge for a service I didn't want and a missing credit for a return. Make sure you check EVERYTHING each month.

4. Pay on time: Late fees run about $35.00 a month. Your minimum payment has to arrive by the due date. If it's too late to send, call the company and see if they'll do an online transfer. They may charge a fee, but it's typically less than the late charge.

5. Make a payoff plan: After you pay the minimum on each card, take whatever you have left over and apply it to one card to pay it off. When that's paid off, move to another. I like paying off cards with smaller balances first. The success of paying off the first cards helps me feel more focused and organized.

6. Speed it up: Find more money to put towards paying off this debt. If you find there are little luxuries you could do without, now's the time. I'm thinking about making coffee at home instead of Starbucks in the morning. Some people would prefer getting rid of premium cable channels. Getting a tax return or extra birthday money from Mom? The best thing you can do for yourself is to apply any of these windfalls to getting yourself out of debt. If you can't face using it all, designate a small percentage for fun and everything else can go to your card payoff plan.

What are you waiting for? I'm certainly not. The time is now!

Go find your statements and let's get going!

Come visit me on FirstClassWoman.com to share how you're improving your financial picture.

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